Footnote: Degree is Shaked

Status and function or abstraction and love—distinctions made by the Iliad and Genesis, respectively—may be getting at the same thing. This is a case I intend to make in examination of the two books of Samuel, but meanwhile, the news impels me to get ahead of myself.

While our foreign policy discloses itself wackier and just as dangerous as the plot of Dr. Strangelove, many of us have been distracted by more personal stories. I suspect that all I have to do is list them: 

Ketanji Brown Jackson; Will Smith; Dave Rubin; “Don’t Say Gay”; Lia Thomas.

What framework will we use to evaluate these stories? It’s become habit in the West to model ethics on contract, i.e. if two consenting adults agree to a thing, then it’s OK (this is sometimes overridden by religious injunctions of course). If consent, that is, will, is the essential thing, then it follows that Lia Thomas may declare himself a woman or the hamster messiah, and Judge Jackson ought to hesitate to define either. By the same token, Dave Rubin may employ as many surrogates as he likes.

Another framework justifies conduct, and defines actors, in terms of relationship. It says that a woman is the complement to man, just as much as a man is the complement to woman. Of course it’s recognized that men and women may be analyzed, or fragmented, into a series of attributes and functions—chromosomes, hormones, genitals, driving ability, etc.—but these have their use and meaning only in relationship. In this view, exploitation is defined as the absence of commitment and completion, rather than of consent. Can you guess what it would say of surrogacy and masterbation 101? It sees Will Smith as a cuckold made ridiculous by his own hand.

This is a complex topic with clear analogues in biology, physics, and neuroscience, but in those fields it is at least understood that there are rival conceptions, i.e. life, matter, and the brain may be modeled as either things or processes. In comparison, our ethics are impoverished and incoherent.

Also in this series: Degree is Shaked; Degree is Shaked II

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